Outside the Great Firewall

Now that I’m outside China, it’s time you all should know the unfiltered truth about the country….

It’s a common belief that the Chinese government monitors everything from email to blogs and censors everything from news to mail to internet content. The only thing that I ever noticed was different was the fact that I did not have access to Facebook. I still accessed news websites and blogged without consequence (but with some reservation). My personal opinion is that there is no possible way the government is reading everything. For one, there are so many freaking people that they would require another country the size of China just to handle the monitoring. And 2nd, they are just not smart enough, which is something I could blog about for months. But, I won’t bore you and generalize all Chinese people.

The government is also on one big power trip for no reason at all. One night, we were at the train station trying to get out of town for the weekend. While we were in line, there was an altercation with a man and the police. Instead of arresting him and taking him to the police station, they just kicked his ass in front of everyone for a couple hours. I’m assuming they did this to set an example. There was no need. In a city of 12 million, crime was really rare. Basically, if you steal something, they just cut your hand off. Hurt or kill someone, you’ll be dead within a few weeks.

In addition, the country loves a cover up. When I went to Beijing, I assumed everyone would speak English because of the huge overhaul they did for the 2008 Olympics. No. A friend of mine told me that the government just forced all the Chinese English speakers to work in the city for the event. Guangzhou is getting ready to host the Asian games in November and as of July 1st they’ve taken action to reduce the pollution in the city. So, no more big trucks or construction in the city center but once the games are over, it’s okay to go back to polluting the Earth. At least they actually acknowledge that the city is polluted. Also, I don’t think it was a coincidence that in the last month, most of the taxi drivers, all of a sudden spoke a little english. I’m sure once the games are over the old, rude, farting, burping, lougey hacking drivers who scream mandarin and refuse to take you to remote parts of town will be back in action. So, if you ever go to China, just remember that almost everything is an illusion.

And lastly, there is a big rumor that China is on track to be the next world power. Not gonna happen. The only reason this rumor exists is because of the huge number of people. Of course the economy will grow when you almost have nearly 2 billion people and many of them are coming into the age where they have a little spending power. But, until their government gives them a little more freedom, how can they advance, try new things and grow into this power. And even when (and if) that happens, it’s going to take decades for the people to embrace the change.

Of course, these are all just personal opinions. And if the government is reading blogs, I can probably consider my Chinese visa revoked.

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D-O-N-E

Fabien’s contract in China and with his company was scheduled to end on July 31st. I was freaking out a little thinking that we’d both return to the US without jobs to one of the worst economies in the country. And not to mention the fact that Fabien is a foreigner and even with his excellent experience, that still makes him a challenging candidate. That being said, once we did return to the US Fabien would only have 3 months to find a job before he would be forced to return to France. So, needless to say, we were totally thrilled when we were in the Philippines and he received an email from a Director at his company stating he would like to speak with him about a permanent transfer to the US. From hearing that, I exhaled a little. Our excitement was short-lived when he finally connected with the Director and was told the company would like him to stay in China for 6 months and then transfer to the US. This was deflating because we already began to make plans and had our mind set on being in Michigan for summer camping, Michigan games, the marathon, etc. Plus, we are both mentally done with China. The days following that information were like a rollercoaster. And this was all going on while Fabien’s parents and 4 friends were here and I was playing tour guide. Then, while we were in Macau Fabien’s mom received a phone call from him. On the way back from his farewell lunch he received a call that they would settle for 2 months in China with the transfer happening in October. Big exhale. We’ll take it. If you’re familiar with the Detroit economy and the US Immigration system, you will know that this is truly a miracle.

Even though Fabien has another 2 months to endure, we both decided that I should return home. I’m really, really, really sad that I am leaving him behind, but I am really, really, really excited to get home. I am done with China. Done with hearing people burp, spit, fart and slurp their noodles. Done with the heat. Done with the pollution. Done with the sidewalks being tore up everywhere I go. Done with trying to speak chinese. Done with trying to embrace the culture. Done using squatty potties. Done with everything smelling like a toilet and cigarettes. Done with having to look both ways, ten times when crossing the street. Done with the metro. Done with people staring at me all the time. D-O-N-E. Done. So, I began pricing flights to go home for the 2nd week of August with a brief stop in France to visit Fabien’s family. After a full spreadsheet and checking and rechecking, the cheapest flight I found was leaving Friday, August 6th and by the grace of God, it was a direct 15 hour flight from Hong Kong, so unfortunately, there would be no France for me. But, as I post this, I’m happy to announce that I am home. Home, sweet home.

This also means that my occupation as a blogger will be ending soon. But, before I retire, I plan to write a no holds barred expose on China and, of course, a reflection piece. Stay tuned for 2 more Stacie in Asia blogs, directly from Stacie in North America.

Heaven on Earth, Part 3: Thailand

Thailand knows how to……

…not ruin it’s beautiful beaches and countryside with huge resorts and sky scraping hotels.

…have a good time. Hello, Songkran.

…cook the most amazing food. You want spicy? Great. No spicy? No problem. Seafood, vegetables, meat, noodles, rice…these are a few of my favorite things.

…treat tourists. Refer back to our immigration experience.

…speak English. But as a side note, their language and writing is like the beautiful version of Chinese.

…do airline customer service. Before you board your flight they offer free newspapers, drinks, snacks and internet. While on the flight, there is always a meal and whatever you want to drink….at no cost to you.

…price products and services. $0.40 tank tops, $9 for a purse, $1 bracelets, $2 t-shirts, $7 massages, $5 pedicures and the list goes on and on.

…how to handle a nature disaster. The Tsunami was in 2004 and pretty much all that is planned to be restored has been.

…be awesome, making it my favorite place I’ve ever visited.

Our trip was not all white sand beaches, blue skies and beautiful scenery. There were a few funny, China like moments. When we were in the middle of the ocean and leaving Ko Lanta, our boat caught fire. Fortunately, the crew was able to put it out quickly and we slowly coasted to our destination with just enough time to jump on our connecting boat. Next, we had to stay in Bangkok overnight before our flight back to Guangzhou on Sunday. All we wanted was a room close to the airport, with air conditioning, a pool and free breakfast. I called a place on Travelocity and it was only 1,200 Baht ($30) and they had rooms available that night. Our sketchy taxi driver took us a good 20 minutes from the airport, then down an even sketchier road where 3 barking dogs chased our car and pulled up to this 1970’s inspired hunting lodge. We walked in the lobby and discovered that it was not only a hotel, but a butcher shop and a boxing arena that had karoking and dancing every night until 1:00 am. As we where shown to our room, we saw the pool, which was a color of green that I have never seen before. Fortunately, the room was fine, the air worked and we had quite a few TV stations.

In conclusion, it was a fantastic trip and I will be ever grateful to Fabien for taking me on this adventure of a lifetime. We were both a little bummed to return to China and as soon as we set foot in the airport, the shenanigans started. We couldn’t find an ATM that would allow us to withdrawal money, the taxi driver wanted to charge us double because we are white, no one in the airport spoke English, etc., etc., etc. So for the next blog, I’ll be back to ripping on China.